I was waiting last Sunday in a long line to see a mermaid. I hesitated before getting in line. My grown up rational self knew it wasn't a REAL mermaid and yet why was I waiting in line? I could have been strolling among the small shops at the Renaissance Fare, looking at jewelry, flipping through a book about Medieval art work or listening to a woman dressed in a peasant dress playing the harp. I could been drinking a glass of cheap red wine.
Yet there I was waiting in a long line to see a mermaid. Half of me thought this is stupid and, yet, the other half....had to see. I wanted to believe.
While waiting, I became aware of the conversation from an average, so average they could have been in a mini van commercial, couple behind me. The woman was asking the man questions about the mermaid. They were good thoughts to ponder if one was going to be meeting a real person. She was wondering about various aspects of the mermaid's life, non-specific, and yet I recall wanting to turn around and remind the woman mermaids weren't real. Still I waited, and the more I eavesdropped on the couple's conversation, the more excited I grew to see the mermaid.
This fancy dancy man, excuse me pirate, was strolling around the line sharing with us his adventures on the sea. Apparently he captured the mermaid. Of course he did. The white lama head sticking out on the front of his hat should have triggered every cynical bone in my body, and yet I couldn't help admire his red feathers. And those muscles were easy on my eyes, too. I found myself getting anxious to step through the black curtain that separated those of us waiting in line from the mermaid. Too bad the pirate didn't serve wine. He'd have been perfect.
This is the first glimpse I got of the mermaid. And for a moment I thought: a real mermaid. I was 5 years old again. My imagination had taken over any intellectual understanding of the world I'd achieved. My college degree was tissue paper. My life experience evaporated. I was a little girl with a big imagination.
It was as if I was back in my childhood home on 121 Alpine Lane and my big sister was reading me from one of my Little Golden Books a story about princesses and witches and houses made from candy. Such a world contained an ocean with mermaids. Of course.
It wasn't just me. A lot of people who stood and stared with open amazement were adults. They were people of all ages and I'm sure all walks of life from plumbers to politicians. Multiple photos were taken.
Upon closer look at the mermaid, reality set in. I questioned if she might be cold and how much did she earn for swimming around that tank. She was such a happy mermaid. And when she said hello in English I was disappointed. I wanted her to have some secret mermaid language. Watching her swim and dive in that tank was like eating big puffs of pink cotton candy. Fleeting, silly and fun.
The experience did my imagination a world of good. I get so caught up in reality, in my important to do list that seems to get longer and more complicated each day. I check off each task accomplished and pat myself on the back. But who really cares? My imagination gets shoved aside as I plan and plot, not just my life each day, but also what I write.
I leave little room for that small tiny voice of imagination that was so big and bold when I was a child. No wonder when I sit down to write a story all I can think of what task I'm ignoring on my to do list.
I had my photo taken with the other mermaid. I'm sure she'd best friends with the one in the tank. Sure I felt silly, but also thrilled.
I didn't post that photo of me. Instead I left room beside the mermaid for you to sit. Put aside health and money and relationship worries and curl up on a giant pink sea shell with pink pearls beside a smiling mermaid. (She left the tank just for us). If you feel too foolish being imaginative, pretending a mermaid is real, remember what Albert Einstein said, "Imagination is more important than intelligence." I bet he would have even waited in line, too.